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National Director, Practice Management – Specialized Disputes

Reference #: ndpmsd_-_07-29-2022
Calgary , Montreal , Ottawa , Toronto , Vancouver
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Borden Ladner Gervais LLP (BLG), a leading, innovative and client-focused law firm in Canada, is seeking a National Director, Practice Management – Specialized Disputes.

Purpose of the Role

The National Director, Practice Management, Specialized Disputes (DPM) will be expected to provide high quality management support, both strategically and operationally, to the Group Head (GH), National Business Leaders (NBLs) and Regional Group Managers (RGMs) in the fulfillment of their practice-related strategic and leadership goals. This position provides strategic insight, business perspectives and execution support for both the long-range strategic plan and the day-to-day group operations, with a view to optimizing group performance through improving efficiency and effectiveness.

The DPM will be responsible for driving adoption of innovations, change management and implementation of best practice and performance excellence projects across the entire practice, as well as working with others on cross-group, cross-Firm projects. As the GH’s ‘trusted counsel’, the role requires a highly resourceful individual with strong emotional intelligence, self-motivation and strong analytical skills and project management skills. The role acts as an important integration and communications hub between practice leadership and the various business service functions of the Firm, helping to maintain momentum and traction on critical practice management projects while ensuring that the practice leadership is kept aware of changes and is equipped to adapt accordingly. This is a strategic and facilitative role that requires a combination of focus and flexibility, and comfort to adapt quickly to changing circumstances. 

The person in this role will work closely with the support for the Disputes – Commercial and Construction and Specialized Disputes Groups and the other Practice Managers to ensure alignment across Practice Management activities to the broader Firm strategy.  The DPM will also work closely with BLG’s Finance, Talent, Clients & Markets and Project Management teams.

This role may be located in any of BLG’s offices.

Key Responsibilities

The key responsibilities of this role are:

Chief of Staff (40%) 

  • Preparation for, and facilitation of “critical path” GH meetings (e.g. with BLG’s management team, Partnership Board or Specialized Disputes Leadership): 
    • Ensure that the meeting objectives are realistic, preparation is appropriate, and the GH is well-prepared and briefed on key issues to raise and the perspectives of different stakeholders
    • Use judgment about the appropriateness and sufficiency of the intended preparation
    • Ensure the GH’s time is leveraged most effectively in a meeting context
    • Recommend participants and ensure participants are aware of meeting agenda and are prepared 
    • Work with GH’s Executive Assistant to ensure appropriate and timely communication to participants
    • Attend meetings with or on behalf of GH, capture major take-a ways, and work with leaders to ensure follow up on progress/achievement of next steps 
    • Lead Business Transformation across the practice group 
    • Accountable to drive the P&L performance with a goal of exceeding budget and projections 
    • Identify performance issues/ barriers and driving action and transformation with key stakeholders
  • Collaboration with other Business Services leaders, teams and project teams
    • Establish collaborative relationships and work closely with Business Services within the Firm, acting as the interface to the Practice Group.  This will include regular contact with functional managers of Clients & Markets, Marketing, Talent, Finance/Accounting, and Knowledge Management and Innovation areas 
    • Develop a network of Subject Matter Experts to support in proactively managing information, addressing challenges and bringing together effective working groups to tackle challenges
    • Serve as an important resource and advisor to Business Services regarding the needs of Specialized Disputes
    • Provide feedback to the function leaders on any performance issues or impact to service levels from business services to your practice areas. Escalate key performance issues accordingly
  • Proactively identify issues that could impact the successful execution of the GH’s priorities:  
    • Proactively develop relationships with partners, associates and paraprofessionals across the Specialized Disputes groups – understand their needs, practices and perspectives on Firm initiatives
    • Ensure GH is aware of relevant issues and proactively frame/position ideas to resolve the problem/mitigate the risk 
    • Focus on the underlying interests of the parties working with the GH, tactfully understand their intentions, and creatively identify alternative means of handling pressing issues
    • Engage in coalition building in support of mitigation approaches
  • Group Alignment
    • Work together with other Practice Managers to form and ensure a consistent approach is taken for activities and initiatives across the Firm to ensure synergies are aligned and opportunities for collaboration are identified to avoid silos being formed
    • Work closely with GH and DPM of Disputes – Commercial and Construction to actively reduce silos across Disputes, champion and execute the Disputes Strategy and all related Disputes projects, share and communicate Disputes successes and ensure alignment in approach/response to key issues spanning both groups
    • Work with the RGMs, DPM of Disputes – Commercial and Construction and Manager, Professional Resources responsible for the Disputes Junior Associates program to support the ongoing establishment and integration of the program. Serve as a key stakeholder for the escalation of issues, change management and advisor to the GH on the overall strategy
    • Collaborate with the Disputes Knowledge and Innovation Lawyer and CKIO to strategize, tailor and implement important K&I initiatives across the Specialized Disputes (and broader Disputes) groups. 
  • Input into projects or commitments where GH is a key stakeholder/impact on Specialized Disputes: 
    • Work closely with the Project Management Team and other Business Services Leaders leading projects that have an impact on Specialized Disputes to advocate for the needs of the practice
    • Ensure alignment among the practice groups and any other project teams in which the GH is involved
    • Seek out and understand the views of different stakeholders, update the GH and recommend mitigating approaches
    • Develop and maintain an inventory of critical projects in which the GH is especially interested and/or for which GH awareness and involvement is essential
    • Work with leaders to align their actions and communications in support of agreed upon Firm, project and practice goals. 
    • Work with all stakeholders to ensure that the GH’s needs are conveyed, that progress is being made in a timely way, and that any demands on the GH’s schedule are understood and agreed upon
    • Apprise the GH of project status and variations from schedule or scope
  • Communications: 
    • Draft communications on behalf of the GH and/or research in support of communications, including the GH update at Partnership Board meetings, follow up correspondence related to the GH’s various meetings with, Group Heads, partners and staff, and various speaking engagements involving external audiences. 
    • Support the needs of the practice groups and business services in their ability to raise critical issues with the GH and receive needed responses, guidance and decisions

Project Leadership & Management (30%)

  • Independent leadership of special GH initiated projects:
    • Act as a key business sponsor to lead the scoping, planning and execution of strategic/transformative projects directly impacting the Specialized Disputes group
    • Present ideas for special projects that might facilitate the GH’s/leadership’s objectives
    • Leverage your relationships with the RGMs, NBLs and other leaders in the Firm to gain support of the GH’s vision and to incorporate the views of these leaders into the plan 
    • If necessary, oversee transfer of the project to other stakeholders within the Firm
  • Change Management
    • Develop thoughtful change management plans, and support the GH in leading the change management as a key stakeholder 
    • Collaborate with other Business Services leaders who own work streams in strategic Group projects, ensuring that deliverables and inputs from these teams are aligned with the overall strategic direction
    • Be a driver of change within the Specialized Disputes groups, and an advocate for the Specialized Disputes groups at Change Management Committee meetings
    • Find creative solutions and workarounds to drive key changes with Lawyers and front office support groups

Financial Analysis (20%)

  • Run monthly financial performance meetings with the GH, RGMs and Directors of Professional Resources
  • Partner with Pricing, Legal Operations and Finance to drive commercial excellence
  • Influence commercial management across Legal professionals 
  • Support the GH in driving strong financial performance across Specialized Disputes by managing and overseeing the following key areas: 
    • Budgeting, Forecasting, Shape Modelling
    • Headcount monitoring
    • Cost and Expense management
    • Realization improvements through improved pricing and matter management
    • Annual rate strategy 
    • Rate review requests
    • Pricing for annual renewals and/or strategic pitches (proactive and reactive)
    • Profitability modelling
    • Talent pipeline modelling
    • Drive effective Practice Management with Partners/Associates leveraging mid year reviews, practice meetings, etc.
  • Ensure detailed understanding of the financial metrics and KPIs influencing/resulting from Group performance
  • Distill a vast amount of reporting into concise briefings for the GH so that they can make accurate and well-informed decisions around key business levers
  • Ensure GH is thoroughly briefed in advance of quarterly Financial Reporting meetings with COO and CEO
  • Support the work of the Legal Operations team by working with GHs and RGMs on improvements to matter management, focused primarily on improving skills of MRAs, Legal Project Management, and Process Efficiencies.

Talent (10%)

  • Partner closely with Professional Resources colleagues to ensure a culture of performance
  • Initiate discussions with the GH and RGMs on capacity management issues through analysis of key metrics; advise and coordinate next steps
  • Work with the Talent function and the GH to ensure the effective onboarding of new hires for the Practice Group
  • Prepare business cases and understand the strategy for lateral hires 
  • Track material performance issues within the Group and keep GH apprised of information raised by other leaders
  • Act as a key stakeholder to assess the hire-back needs of each office/group, advise the GH
  • Monitor and raise the Group’s Diversity & Inclusion pipeline, ensure the GH is aware of how this is transforming in alignment with Firm goals
  • Track any resignations, terminations and leaves of absence – work with GH to determine how to best support Groups as a result of these events
  • Track legal professional retirements and work with the Talent team to prepare appropriate documentation
  • Assist GH in planning and preparing for annual mid-year reviews
  • Monitor progress of new hires against business plans
  • Assist with communications and onboarding of new hires
  • Assist in the partner admission process as needed


There will be some travel required as the DPM will play an important role in supporting the GH’s strategies across BLG offices and it is important that they build relationships with the lawyers in the groups. 

Key Competencies

This role provides privileged access to the inner workings of BLG and to highly sensitive information. The successful candidate will be discrete, high-energy, agile-minded, strategic, proactive, a direct communicator, highly organized and committed to the vision and values of BLG. In addition, the following standards will generally define the successful incumbent:

Experience in the practice of law or in a management role at a law firm preferred

  • Project management experience preferred but not required 
  • Minimum two year commitment to the role 
  • Good sense of self and strong executive presence
  • The ability to communicate orally and in writing in both French and English is considered an asset
  • Willingness to work hard and take direction—but also creatively solve problems for which the answers aren’t always obvious
  • Enjoys working as a team (with other leaders) and independently 
  • Ability to provide direction on a number of strategic projects and be an advocate for the Group’s needs
  • Knowledge of BLG and key stakeholders desirable 
  • Ability to understand financial metrics, understanding how individual metrics impact the overarching strategy
  • Commercial understanding and acumen of legal industry

Critical core competencies for successful performance in this role are:

  • Ability to prioritize tasks, and re-prioritize quickly with little input
  • Highly-developed communications skills (written/verbal) and emotional intelligence
  • Results/action-orientated
  • Project management skills
  • Organizational and political agility
  • Developed interpersonal and negotiation skills
  • Unquestionable personal code of ethics, integrity, diversity, and trust
  • Able to successfully navigate within varying degrees of ambiguity in a fast-paced environment
  • Strong strategic/financial analysis skills
  • Ability to pull together polished documents using MS Word, MS PowerPoint
  • Comfort with MS Excel

How to Apply

We thank all applicants for their interest in this position, however, only applicants selected for an interview will be contacted.

Everyone at BLG is required to carry out the duties of their role while upholding the important principles of our respectful workplace policies, and treating everyone with respect, regardless of position. At BLG, valuing diversity and inclusion is key to a respectful workplace.

BLG is committed to fostering a diverse and inclusive workplace. We welcome and encourage applications from diverse candidates, including people with disabilities. Accommodations are available on request for candidates taking part in all aspects of the selection process.

*Please note that relatives of current BLG employees and partners are not eligible for consideration.